The Hardest Person to Forgive Is Oneself

As I am writing my book on Values, Vision, and Gratitude, I thought that it might be valuable to bring in stories from my Phoenix Games days, a time when my values were so clear and my vision so vivid that an entire community formed around what I was building.

You might think that this would be an inspiring walk down memory lane. A chance to relive my glory days!

However, you might also observe that I do not, today, own a game store, run a Rocky Horror shadow cast, or lead a scifi convention. Something happened from then to now to change these things.

At the time, I thought it was bad luck and disloyal friends. Since then, I have come to realize it was me. All me. All along.

It was my single minded passion and vision which brought it all together and it was my zealotry and arrogance that tore it all apart. That’s not quite true. All three aspects of it continued successfully for years after I left, so it was my zealotry and arrogance that cost me the community that I had built.

“Single minded passion and vision” and “zealotry and arrogance” are really the same thing looked at from two different perspectives.

At the time, these three organizations and the community that formed among them was the most important thing in my world. It was my entire world. I lacked a concept of important things beyond that community, and that lack of perspective was disastrous.

My vision was single minded to the point of zealotry. I made business decisions that sacrificed profitability because I did not want to do anything to infringe on the community space. Worse, I politicked like a politician in the French Revolution for fear that my enemies were trying to steal my power.

In retrospect, this was ridiculous. I was a game store owner, a cast director, and a con chair, not a South American dictator. The people I was working with were college kids looking for a place to fit in and a fun time, not revolutionaries looking to seize power.

I exaggerated the importance of what we were doing in my mind, and in doing so I exaggerated my own importance.

It all fell apart in 2007, 14 years ago. Three organizations which most people who read this have never heard of except for as part of my own backstory. Nobody died because of my actions. Nobody was seriously financially impacted.

Yet, as I mine these experiences for stories that I can share to help others learn from them, I still find myself filled with regret. A decade and a half later, I find I still have not forgiven myself.

After 2007, I never approached another project with anything near the single minded intensity that I approached Phoenix Games with. I always found it ironic that after the experience, I was so much more qualified to lead than I had been when I was actually leading, but I lacked the confidence.

As I think back, perhaps it wasn’t so much a lack of confidence as a realization that overconfidence had been my downfall. As we often do, I overcorrected. Seeking to avoid the mistakes of the past, I make larger mistakes to compensate.

It is almost surreal to think that the same person who ran Phoenix Games is writing these words today. Here I am, in the house I own with my wife and daughter upstairs, author, motivational speaker, Rotary president, elected official. Can I be the same man who launched a game store?

The fact that the sign from that store is in my office suggests that I am, in fact, that same person. But not the same. I’ve grown and changed a great deal in over a decade. I have learned much and done much.

Forgiving your old self is difficult because then you go back to explore the memories, you inhabit that person that you used to be. You relive the stories knowing how they turn out, like watching a movie that you know ends badly. You can yell at the characters on the screen to turn back, but they still do the same thing.

You can tell your former self not to say that thing or do that thing, but the story ends the same way every time. Maybe that’s the problem: the idea that the story ended.

The story obviously has not ended. I’m still writing it, but it feels like it did because I don’t feel like I’m that same person. Yet, I am. While I cannot change what this character, the one who is me, did 15 years ago, I can change what that same character does today.

The story is not over. What I did then is prologue for what I am doing today. If I’m going to tell anyone to change their course, I should tell it to the man I am today.

This is my story. It’s still going. And it’s going to be a happy one.

Swagger

swagger

What is swagger? It is a sense of comfort in the world. It’s taking the sense of familiarity you have on your home turf and taking it everywhere because the entire world is your home turf.

Have you ever been at a party and met someone you assumed was the host because they were so comfortable? That’s swagger.

Have you known someone who would cut through back hallways and “staff only” doors to get where they needed to go and no one ever questioned them? That’s swagger.

It’s not arrogance. If you’ve got swagger, you don’t need arrogance. Arrogance is what it looks like when someone pretends to have it but is secretly worried that they’ll be found out.

You’ve heard the expression “what could you do if you knew you could not fail?”

How about this one: “What could you do if you did not care if you failed?”

If you’ve got swagger, you don’t care if you fail because you know you can never really fail. You can try and succeed, or you can try and learn something.

Everyone feels imposter syndrome. Everyone looks at others who are better than them and wonders if they fit in among those great people.

Swagger is deciding that you do. It is acknowledging that you’re not the best and you don’t have to be because you’ve got something to offer and people are luck to have it.

You don’t need permission to have swagger. You don’t need success to have swagger. You just decide to have it.

It is as simple as that. It is as complicated as that.

It is as easy as that. It is as hard as that.

When you can master yourself to the degree that you can decide to have swagger, then you are entitled to it.


Would you like to find your swagger? That’s part of what a coach does. I help people get in touch with makes them powerful and develop that self mastery to get that swagger. To learn more, set up a complementary coaching session at http://michaelwhitehouse.coach.

The Burden of Unsolicited Advice

The burden of unsolicited advice by Michael Whitehouse

Unsolicited advice is a bit like performing surgery in the dark. While well intentioned, it is unlikely to hit the mark, and it creates a burden on the person who receives it.

This is different from general advice. If I make a general post with an idea or tips, then you are free to choose to embrace it or not. It is up to you to read it or just keep scrolling. On the other hand, if you comment or private message you, then I have created a burden and even obligation.

Continue reading “The Burden of Unsolicited Advice”

Fresh Booted Brain

Most computers perform at their best when you first turn them on. It’s because their memory is as clear as it ever is, leaving plenty of resources for operation. In most operating systems, every time a piece of software runs, even if it is closed, there is still a lingering bit of resources that’s not fully cleared.

Our human brains run similarly. I find that the best time to be creative is first thing in the morning, before a bunch of stuff has started opening up in my head. Once I have started dealing with outside stimuli, my mind starts to get cluttered up. Some of that stuff sticks around, even after I have moved past it.

That makes this time, first thing in the morning, a powerful time to write and record. My mind is clear and full of my ideas.

What I try not to do is to check email or consume social media first thing in the morning. There are many things that I might find in either place which can hijack my mental processes. It is so easy to come across a piece of information on email or social media which snags out attention and holds a piece of it even after we have moved on.

This is, to some degree, by design. Most social media platforms want to keep you engaged, so they feed to you the kind of content that will stick in your mind. Contentious topics. Upsetting topics. Topics that you feel the need to engage with.

We see something that bothers or upsets us, and we feel the need to respond. Even if we resist the temptation, it sticks in the back of our mind. Of course, if we do respond it is much worse. Our comment will naturally draw other comments.

Suddenly our attention is consumed by an argument that doesn’t matter, which we didn’t need to have, often with someone who is not particularly important to us.

I encourage you to recognize the power and value of that time in the morning when your mind is freshly booted up, and all those programs haven’t started running.

Use that time to be creative.
Use that time to create content.
Use that time to meditate or journal.
Use that time as only that time can be used.

Invariably, our mind will clutter up again with all the concerns and conflicts of the day. But take advantage of that precious moment at the beginning of the day.

If you write just 500 words every morning, you’ll have written 182,500 words by the end of the year. Something to think about, before you think about everything else.

How Many Actions Points Does that Take?

The idea of time management is being supplanted by the idea of energy management.

My board gaming friends may understand the concept of Actions or Action Points. In a game like Dominion, you get one Action per turn, but some cards will give you additional actions which let you do more things.

We may think that we have 8 hours in a day, what we really have is a combination of time and energy which results in being able to perform a certain number of actions per day. If we were machines, the number of actions we could perform would be a simple function of how many minutes it takes to perform the task divided into the number of minutes we have available.

Since we are human, however, energy ends up being much more of a factor. Most people get as little as 3-4 hours of work done during a typical 8 hour work day. Why? Energy management.

There are some tasks that give me energy, give me additional Actions in my turn. Running a coaching session gives me energy. I do 6 sessions back to back and the last one would be as good as the first, possibly better, because it energizes me.

Creating content is another such activity. I can write 3,000 words in a sitting. I cannot, however, write two blog posts back to back.

Why? Because creating a blog post, is more than just writing. I need to tag it. I need to share it to Facebook and LinkedIn. I need to do other administrative tasks to make sure people see it. That consumes Actions.

Different people gain Actions, gain energy, from different types of activity. Different people find different tasks easier or harder.

A coaching trainer I am working with shared that he does not like to do more than 3, and preferably not more than 2, sessions per day because it wears him out. I could do twice that and be ready for more.

Recently it was suggested that I should repurpose my content. Specifically that I should record video as I record the audio of my Morning Motivation podcast. This makes sense if creating content is hard and repurposing is easy. For many people this may well be the case, but not for me.

Morning Motivation is my fourth attempt at a podcast, and my most successful. It is so successful because it is so logistically simple for me to create. It takes approximately 11 minutes start to finish to record and post an episode. I will usually create all the episodes for a week in one or two sittings. I spend more time recording the audio than I do sharing the content, and that’s just the way I like it.

One of the great things about audio is that I can edit out a flub in seconds as I record without leaving an artifact. Not so in video.

While it may seem like simply recording video as I record the audio would be simple, it would likely double the time it takes to create an episode. When I increase the friction on a task, I increase the chance that the task will stop getting done.

A better use of 11 minutes would be to take my camera and record a second video on the same topic that is 2-5 minutes long and share that. It may seem inefficient to create two pieces of content when I could repurpose one, but it is actually easier, it takes less Actions, to do it separately.

The same is true with transcribing the podcast. There is software that will turn speech to text that I could run the episodes through, but what I would have is a mess of errors with no punctuation. I would have to go back through every word, figure out what I was trying to say originally, and clean it up. Add to that the fact that we don’t write the same way we speak, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

You know what I can do in the same amount of time it would take to clean up an automated transcription? I could write an article!

That’s what I did on the topic of getting 1% better every day. I recorded it as an episode, then I wrote an article, then I recorded a TikTok, then I talked more about it in a Sunday Update of Morning Motivation. These four pieces of content did not feel like work to me because they were creating content. They also are all native to the platforms where they live.

In the same amount of time it would have taken to repurpose the first episode into multiple pieces, I created four pieces of content.

The place where repurposing does make sense is when you have an assistant. I can create content as easily as I can repurpose it. An assistant cannot create content for me, but they can take what I have, reedit it, transcribe it, clean it up, reshare it, and all the rest.

At some point it will make sense to hire such an assistant, but this is not that point for me.

For yourself, it is important to recognize what give you Actions and what consumes Actions. What can you do all day without a break or rest, and what drains your energy. Rather than looking at how much time something takes, look at how much energy it takes and strategize along those lines.

Find the things that you can do most efficiently and do more of that. Find the things that drain you and either hire someone else to do it or do as little of it as possible.

Get 1% Better

You may have noticed I’m producing more content lately. Content is a vital part of what I need to do, but I have not been doing a lot of it.

I’ve been busy with all kinds of things. Each of those things seemed bigger than one piece of content, so I did them first, and then I made the content never.

The problem is that no one piece of content I create, no one video, no one article will make a big difference. Just like no one trip to the gym or one prospecting call will make the difference. The difference comes when all of those tiny little steps come together and you look back to realize you have come a really long way.

Continue reading “Get 1% Better”